Happy Earth Day. This is a day to recognize the role of the planet in our lives—a role which encompasses—well—everything. If you haven’t got a book to read for Earth Day, here are ten suggestions. This list is entirely mine, so if you’re unhappy with any of my choices, then by all means, swop out mine for yours.
And there’s no order to the order. All of these books I love and have read more than once. They’re not all children’s and young adult books, either. They are books that speak to me of the necessary human connection to the natural world. I don’t think it’s possible to live without that connection, in some form or other. May you find and celebrate your connection to our planet this day. Enjoy.
1. Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows,
The account of the life of Rat, Mole, and their friends living along the river bank. This is an English river in an English countryside, so it has a charm that other rivers can’t manage. And I desperately wanted to live there a few times.
2. Beatrix Potter, The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin
C. S. Lewis thought of this as one of his favourite books as a child. He was struck by the “idea of autumn” that he thought characterizes the book. I haven’t ever fully understood or appreciated Lewis’ point, although I still like the book. See what you can make of it.
3. L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
The eleven-year-old Anne arrives at Green Gables and immediately falls in love with the landscape. Descriptions of Prince Edward Island in this book are detailed and lavish. And yes, PEI is that beautiful. Check it out for yourself.
4. Gary Paulsen, Hatchet
I teach this book regularly, and I like it because Brian is stranded on a northern Ontario lake for fifty-four days. I wouldn’t want to do it, but I always find Brian’s story compelling.
5. Farley Mowat, Lost in the Barrens
Another survival story, but I have a soft spot for this book. I read it as a twelve-year-old, and I daydreamed about being lost on the barren lands, just like Jamie and Awasin.
6. Monica Hughes, The Keeper of the Isis Light
A science fiction set on the planet of distant Isis. Olwen, the planet’s sole occupant, apart from her robot guardian, gets to watch as colonists come to her world and despoil its beauty. Hughes lived and worked in Edmonton for many years, and I had the good fortune to meet and talk to her on several occasions.
7. Francis Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
Another English novel about English landscapes—this time a heath and a rose garden. This book is about growth and a return to life. Led by the determined Mary Lennox, almost all of the characters in the book find new life in the unfolding spring.
8. Frank Herbert, Dune
Definitely not a kid’s book. Herbert’s book is an environmental science fiction fantasy, grounded in intrigue, philosophy, and history. Herbert’s future universe hinges on the ecology of a single desert planet.
9. Ursula Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness
The planet Gethen, or Winter, is an androgynous world. This is a book that will challenge your ideas of what constitutes the feminine and masculine, male and female, all against the backdrop of a planet of ice and snow that places infinite demands upon its inhabitants.
10. Richard Adams, Watership Down
A book about rabbits, but not the rabbits of Beatrix Potter. Fiver, Hazel, Bigwig and the others are rabbits looking for a home. They travel across the countryside, they fight to stay alive, and they tell stories about El-ahrairah, their trickster hero, to remind themselves of who they are.